By Anne Brodie
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will judge a reality series, to be seen exclusively in Canada on Makeful starting August 10. Prince Charles will name the winner from six amateur British craftspeople – a wood carver, blacksmith, stone carver, pargetter, stained glass artist; and weaver – whose skills have been passed down for hundreds of years. The Prince’s Master Crafters: The Next Generation hopes to renew interest in centuries-old arts, design, and crafts that are currently threatened. The UK’s rich design and art history is in trouble; in 2021, four heritage crafts were declared extinct and a further 56 critically endangered. The Prince’s Foundation advocates for revival and preservation and he has long championed ecology, nature preservation, gardening, and local food movements. This seems a worthy and logical next step.
Ron Howard’s excellent fact-based feature Thirteen Lives takes us inside Thailand’s infamous Tham Luang cave where thirteen soccer players and their coach were stranded by floods in 2018. The youngsters went to explore the twisting, narrow, mile-long tunnel under a mountain unaware that Monsoon rains were coming. The rains would flood the tunnel system leaving the boys trapped without food on a small surface above the water from June 23rd to July 10. Teams from around the world (Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell, Joel Edgerton) converge to rescue the boys as parents camped at the cave’s mouth desperate with worry. The world’s biggest pumps were brought in, the water diverted, with permission to flood the nearby farmers’ fields – the government later compensated the farmers. The operation and the determination of the divers are the primary focus. the actors learned to dive and carried out innovative physically taxing jobs necessitated by the tunnel’s difficult terrain to push forward. Outside news crews from around the world pushed for information, but the methods and results were kept secret. Howard’s deep skill and empathy raise the film from an ‘adventure action’ film to a think piece, a true and harrowing but measured interpretation. Howard has covered natural disasters previously and his reliably human, empathetic, and intelligent approach makes this an extraordinary experience. On Prime Video.
I Love My Dad is a creepy, cringey number based on real events in which a dad, Chuck (Patton Oswalt) decides to deceive his way into healing a long-festering wound in his relationship with his son, Franklin (writer-director and star James Morosini). Chuck is a habitual bad dad, failing to show for Franklin’s life moments, promising to do better, but always drops the ball. Chuck leaves countless “I’m sorry, forgive me” messages but Franklin blocks him. Franklin despairs about his father’s neglect and his parents’ divorce and attempts suicide. Chuck makes a rash decision to create fake social media account to follow him posing as Becca Thompson, a waitress who takes pity on him when he cries in a diner; he creates a photo gallery, and friends Franklin, who immediately asks why Becca only has one friend – him. Chuck weaves a patchwork of lies that soon spirals out of control. Weird stuff happens as Franklin has sexual thoughts about Becca and relays them to “her”, “she” answers and soon enough Franklin and “dad” are kissing onscreen in a dream sequence. Morosini opens the film thusly “The following actually happened. My dad asked me to tell you it didn’t”. It was a multi-award winner at SXSW 22. In theatres.
It’s great to see a young female protagonist as a proactive, brave, and intuitive heroine as is the case in Prey on Hulu. Amber Midthunder nails the role of Naru, a Commanche in 1750 in the American Great Plains (shot in Calgary, Alberta) as her community comes under threat not just from newly arrived white settlers and pirates but also from an invisible enemy powerful, strange and inhuman and capable of wiping out life. The alien reads its environment with thermal heat technology; it’s efficient and thorough in killing living things. Naru warns the village and the warriors but they don’t believe there is a massive creature that stands on two feet. But they will soon find she’s right. This is the origins story of the Predator franchise hence its familiarity. Dan Trachtenberg’s action-thriller is Naru’s journey to warrior and her battle to survive, along with her community. Midthunder fights, shoot arrows, and effectively uses a kind of martial arts, she can navigate thick woods for danger and useability and to harvest nature’s bounty as sustenance and spirit. There’s a telling sequence that shows the chain of life, a mouse eats an insect, a snake eats the mouse, the predator eats the snake, the natural order of things that mirrors the action. This is a fresh and exciting standalone film that entertains, educates, and fires the imagination and admiration for Midthunder’s dedication.
Netflix celebrates the Sumer of Love with a series of new films and series that steam us up just like the weather. Wedding Season is a rom-com set in a traditional Hindu community shot in Toronto ( Avenue Diner, Masonic Temple, Little India, the Danforth, the Canadian Film Centre, Centre Island, etc. ) but claims to be Jersey. Brian Grazer and Ron Howard produce, so it’s glossy, with high production values and broad general appeal. Pallavi Sharda and Suraj Sharma are eternal singles Asha and Ravi, two moderns whose traditional mothers throw them together to marry during a stressful traditional calendar period called Wedding Season. Asha’s a business executive and Ravis’s an unemployed MIT start-up genius and they want no part of it. To keep the parents quiet they agree to “fake date”. Meanwhile, Asha’s sister’s (Arianna Afsar) wedding is one of the dozens the community will attend this season; her groom-to-be (Sean Kleier) is white but more Indian than they are, much to the family’s amusement. Mother ( Meena Sood) worries about Asha being penniless and childless if she doesn’t act fast but little does she know that Asha and Ravi are indeed falling in love. Plenty of complications and predictability in this idealised tale of modernity and tradition that holds the possibility that maybe one’s parents are right occasionally. P.S. Asha’s father is played by Schitt’s Creek’s wonderful Rizwan Manji.
Luck, Apple TV+ animated feature is John Lasseter’s first since leaving Pixar and Disney brings together a cool voice cast including Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Pegg, Lil Rel Howery, John Ratzenberger and young star Eva Noblezada. Eva is Sam, a girl who grew up in foster care. She is now 18 and has aged out and must begin living on her own but she’s plagued with more than her fair share of bad luck. She has a heart of gold and looks out for a little girl in the system, Hazel, Adelynn Spoon who has had many disappointments when potential forever families don’t come through. Sam determines to find them both some good luck and heads to the Land of Luck, a magical place where life is smooth and predictable, where bad luck is crystallized into a powder that can be disposed of. Fonda is a beneficent Dragon who runs her happy-go-lucky land until a threat appears in the form of a bad luck curse. All the inhabitants must band together to battle the bad to save the day and help Hazel find a home. It’s colourful, noisy, rambunctious, and funny, so this is a warning for light and sound-sensitive viewers. My favourite part is Sam’s unbreakable spirit against the odds and the idea that fortitude and love will get us through.
Say hi to Season 2 of FX on Hulu‘s Reservation Dogs the sassy sitcom about life on the rez, shot in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and starring a whole lot of Canadians. It picks up after the tornado blows through. as roofers get busy and demolitions begin, Willie Jack (Paulina Jacobs) must reverse a curse to get her life back on track, such as it is. Elora (Devery Jacobs) and Jackie ” (Elva Guerra) are determined to get out of Dodge to the promised land – California – but they should have put more thought into ways and means. Elora’s car breaks down and their attempt to steal one results in being terrorised by racist rifle-totin’ backcountry boys. A man picks them up but that ends in disaster and he pushes them out without their bags or money In the middle of nowhere. Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) is abandoned by Elora and attempts to grow up but looking to Uncle Brownie (Gary Farmer) for wisdom is a misstep. He finally lands roofing job where he’s mercilessly teased but taken under Leon’s (Jon Proudstar) wing where he’s taught how to navigate life. All this as splashy Spirit (Dallas Goldtooth) looks on. The language is blue, that’s a given, but the writing is top level, elevating the ordinary, taking the mickey out of bad choices and reflecting the heart and soul of this tight-knit community like any other and also unlike any other. What a treat. And the music!!!
And just a reminder that FX’ excellent, character-driven dark comedy series The Bear is now available on Disney+ Canada. This rich, funny and provocative story concerns a renowned young chef who leaves the elite world of Michelin restaurants to take over Original Beef of Chicagoland, his family’s sandwich shop. A high price to pay but he does so, at the very moment his career in fine dining explodes. Jeremy Allen White leads the cast of Ebon Moss Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza ColónZayas, New Brunswick, and actor/writer – and Nova Scotian – Matty Matheson, a tight-knit group of cooks who slave over hot stoves with incredible passion. You can feel the stress and hot steam, as it reverberates off the screen. The chef, now disgraced by his bitter brother who expected to inherit the diner, must earn his place in a sandwich kitchen and he does, head held high. The complexity of the characters crammed into a small space is phenomenal. Each is defined and full – this is a rare treat of a series that must be savoured.